The one enormous difference was turnout. Turnout between the 2000 and 2004 elections rose from 105 million to 122 million — plus 16 percent. Turnout between the 2008 and 2012 elections fell from 131 million to 128 million — minus 2 percent.
Turnout is a measure of organization but also of spontaneous enthusiasm.
Romney, like Kerry, depended on voters’ distaste for the incumbent; he could not hope to inspire the devotion Bush enjoyed in 2004 and that Obama had from a diminished number in 2008.
In other words, Romney failed to inspire the base. That’s hard for me to fathom, but Barone is one of the smartest guys out there so I’ll take his word for it. The key question is why? Was it Romney personally? Was it how Obama, with aid from a bit too willing press, painted Romney which was certainly different than the man himself? Certainly the latter had an effect, but was it enough?
When I look at other trends out there, there is one thing I found pretty scary. K-Lo just concluded the latest campaign inside e-book and notes a couple of stories about Romney and says:
It’s not a strategy point or breaking news, but: He’s a good man, that Mitt Romney. And I’ll always be grateful for good men who are still willing to bother with politics.
So, it’s fair to conclude that either America never got to know that Mitt Romney was a good man, or they rejected him because of it – it is the second possible conclusion that scares me. We already looked at a chart declaring the end of “nominal protestantism.” We have also noted that Obama overwhelming won the “religiously unaffiliated” vote, this includes people that claim faith, but find “church” problematic. We are starting to get some more details now.
Articles in USAToday and CSM with analysis from Christian bloggers I regularly read are noting with strong evidence a trend we have discussed here, but never so thoroughly documented. Christianity is not so much growing in the nation as it is shifting. It is shifting from the mainline denominations to the evangelical independents and the Pentecostals. It is also worthy of note (the CSM piece):
… Churches that have equated faith with political activism, in fact, are watching their ranks thin. Lewis, the Bangor Seminary dean, sees emphasis on politics as one reason some mainline denominations have seen their membership decline accelerate in the past 10 years.
Interestingly, the mainlines are largely liberal, but I have seen other stats that indicate the same trend is true in independent conservative congregations that emphasize politics too much.
It is important to note that Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism, while vibrant, are pretty new on the scene by church standards, and definitely lack the intellectual horsepower and depth of the older traditions. Of course, mainline Protestantism is very young compared to Catholicism, but it is built on Catholicism’s shoulders while the Evangelicals and Pentecostals largely reject most of the past. (This, by the way can account for much of the competitiveness between Mormonism and these more tradition Christian expressions they are taking theologically different approaches to the same religious space.) In short, we are moving from intellectual based religious adherence to “felt” religious adherence. Along with this is a move from hierarchically organized to locally organized in churches.
This last sentence is fascinating in light of the movement in federal government to more and more hierarchical oversight and organization. Are churches receding because of governmental pressure? Is government moving to fill a void left by religion? Are both just following some trend of the populace?
One of the other things worthy of note in this movement is that people general view of religion is moving radically. Religion is now viewed, even by the religious, as “personal.” In other words, it is about them, not about bigger things or even how they operate in bigger settings. To some extent religion is viewed as escapist – it is where they go to get relief from an ugly world, but they do not necessarily take it to that ugly world and try and change it.
Again, the questions are fascinating. Is this trend a result of the bad teaching on “separation of church and state?”
In terms of the elections just past, these trends seem to indicate that Romney being a good man did not matter more than the fact that he was a good man was unknown. That “good man” stuff is for church, not out there in the cold cruel world.
As I survey all this, I see two things the church, churches really, need to get to work on and get to work on now. One is they need to restore the intellectual traditions and foundations of the faith. Secondly, they need to teach that faith is personal and public, that it is bigger than one’s personal salvation.
So, how do we get there?